Nelspruit is a city of sports fans, a place where rugby jumpers, football shirts and cricket tops are worn with pride. But, when it comes to rugby things are changing. While five years ago the question to a “Nelspruiter” would be “are you a ‘Lion’, ‘Shark’ or ‘Bull’?”, now it is, “why aren’t you a Puma?”
Photographs by Hennie Homann and Lowveld Media
After a solid first season in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division and upsetting the odds by winning the 2015 Vodacom Cup it’s fair to say the Steval Pumas are turning the City Pink! Reinforcing themselves as one of the country’s ‘big eight’ rugby teams.
It’s the distinctive playing style of the Puma’s that makes them a delight to watch. Their big physical, ball carrying, forwards dominate contact situations, while fast elusive backs to play with width and flare.
According to the coach, MJ Mentz, the secret to their success is that they don’t fear any of the other older teams despite their opponent’s illustrious rugby pedigrees. Instead the Pumas respect each and every opponent, knowing each week the challenge will be different and require them to adapt. It is this positive mentality that helped them beat the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Vodacom Cup Champions in successive weeks, on the road, to reach the finals.
When asked what the recipe for putting a “giant slaying” team together, coach MJ Mentz believes discipline, unity and respect are the key aspects for a winning team. While rugby skills are obviously a key player prerequisite it requires more than just natural talent to be a member of the Pumas Squad. The plays need to be disciplined and have a positive work ethic, as they are expected to train up to 7 hours a day during the off season.
The goal for this Currie Cup season is to finish in the top 4 teams and be in contention for the play-offs, which is no small task. But with a growing international fan base, the whole of Nelspruit getting behind them, the team are starting to get the support and recognition they deserve.
So why not show your support and get down to the eye-catching Mbombela stadium to catch a game?
|Check out the Pumas’ Website: www.pumas.co.za for details of the next home game.|